Here is a tonic for those who still see cars as more than just transportation:
Mazda no longer offers an automatic transmission in two out of three versions of the 2022 Miata, the company's much more than mere transportation car.
An automatic is still available optionally, if you swing that way. But, in contrast to the general practice, it is only available in the most expensive trim.
And you pay extra for it.
As it used to be, with automatics, which were designed to make driving a more passive activity, for those who just want to get there and back.
But that's precisely what the Miata's not all about.
What It Is
The Miata is a two-seat convertible sports car that's been in continuous production since 1989, outselling and outlasting numerous rivals along the way.
Prices start at $27,650 for the base Sport trim, which comes with everything a sports car ought to come standard with, including a manual transmission and a one-hand, throw-it-back soft top.
The Club trim, which stickers for $31,150, is even sportier. It comes standard with the same manual transmission, plus a limited-slip rear differential, strut tower brace, Bilstein shocks, wider (17-inch) wheels, and additional niceties such as heated seats and an upgraded nine-speaker Bose stereo.
The Grand Touring trim stickers for $32,650 with the manual and $33,150 with the optional six-speed automatic transmission.
All trims now come standard with Kinematic Posture Control, which uses light braking pressure (automatically applied, via the ABS) to the inner rear wheel during high-speed cornering to reduce body roll.
More fun than sports cars that cost twice as much.
Almost economy car gas mileage.
The manual comes standard.
What's Not So Good
The 12-volt power point socket for your radar detector is awkwardly located in the passenger side footwell.
Under The Hood
Every Miata trim comes standard with the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine -- a size of engine that's become very common in other cars of all types. The Miata's engine is nothing like any of them, though, because it does not make its full 181-horsepower until it is revved to 7,000 RPM, encouraging the person driving the Miata to do just that.
The manual-equipped version can get to 60 in 5.6 seconds; with the optional automatic, it takes about six.
With either transmission, you'll be driving a car that uses only a bit more gas than many current-year economy cars: 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway for the manual-equipped version, and 26 mpg city/ 35 mpg highway with the automatic.
On The Road
Where to start? How about not wanting it to end?
Driving the Miata is what driving was once all about -- when the trip was as important as the destination, and you went to some lengths to prolong the former.
This car connects you to the drive as you both become part of it. With the top down -- just unlatch and throw it back -- you are in every moment as each passes into the next.
The sounds of the engine mingle with the sounds of the road, even to the extent of hearing the gravel bits as they pass underneath the tires to be spat out behind as the detritus of your passing. Your eyes take in just as much as the view surrounds you. Cruising along in fifth gear, your left elbow rests on the top of the door, feeding the light but precise power steering the necessary minute course corrections. The next moment, you're heel-and-toeing it through the esses, both hands (and feet) fully occupied.
It is both Nirvana and Revelation.
At The Curb
This may be a sports car, but it has the multidemographic appeal that the original Volkswagen Beetle had -- men and women, young and old. Everyone seems to like this car -- perhaps because it is so very likable.
Like the old Beetle, the Miata is purposely simple. It has a pull-up emergency brake rather than an electrically activated parking brake. You want to drop the top? Unlatch the catch and throw it back. Even the seemingly inescapable LCD display is minimalist.
The same goes for the hilarious removable cup holders that snap in and out of place.
There has to be something -- right?
Yes, there is one thing. The 12-volt power point -- essential hook-up for the radar detector that ought to be standard equipment in a car such as this -- is located absurdly, deep upside the dash on the passenger's side footwell. It is impossible to reach it from the driver's side, and the only way to see it from the passenger side is to get out and shove your face under there, maybe holding a flashlight.
The Bottom Line
There's a reason why the Miata has been in production without interruption for more than 33 years while so many others have come (and gone) during those years.
All you have to do is drive one to understand why that is.
Eric's latest book, "Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!" will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate, Inc.